Rast vs. Müller in DTM finale at Hockenheim
- Defending champion at an advantage: René Rast (Audi) going into the final title battle as the favourite
- Challenger in attack mode: Rast’s fellow Audi driver Nico Müller has nothing to lose
- Outsider with chances: Robin Frijns could turn the scales
The final two rounds in the battle for the title are imminent: this weekend (6-8 November), Hockenheim serves as the stage for the ultimate showdown for the DTM and the title antagonists. In the red-and-white corner: René Rast (GER, Audi), the defending champion and the points’ leader. In the green-and-white corner: Nico Müller (SUI, Audi), the challenger and currently second in the standings. And then there is also Robin Frijns (NED, Audi), who, mathematically, can become champion as well. Making any predictions? Possible, but pointless, because certainly there has been no lack of surprising twists in the 2020 DTM season. And therefore, TV viewers can look forward to sporting outstanding final races, spectacular duels and thrilling action (live on Saturday and Sunday from 13.00 on TV partner SAT.1).
If in doubt … – for Müller and Frijns, going flat-out and achieving top results are the only things that matter
Two who have nothing to lose: for the two teammates in the Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Nico Müller and Robin Frijns, the strategy is one of motorsport’s age-old adages: if in doubt, flat out. Their situation, after all, is clear: both have to make up many points on René Rast in order to be in a position to turn the tables on the home straight of the season. Müller is 19 points down, Frijns 41. There are still two times 25 points for the two race wins at stake, plus three additional points for each of the two pole positions. None of the two candidates is in a position to make up sufficient points by their own means: the maximum possibility is 16 points in case of a maximum score at Hockenheim against the driver who theoretically comes second. As a duo, however, they could well be in a position to turn the tables, for instance when the Abt drivers secure the two top positions in the qualifying sessions and the races with Nico Müller coming out on top on every occasion.
To finish first … – calculated risk is the strategy of choice for René Rast
Conversely, this also means: René Rast can achieve the successful title defence by himself. To do so, he ‘just’ has to come at least second in both qualifying sessions and both races. If that is the case, there is no way somebody else can keep him from securing the large trophy, irrespective of what his opponents achieve. In the process, the following things are absolutely forbidden: mistakes, setbacks, retirements. For Rast, the golden racing rule applies: to finish first, first you have to finish. René Rast, after all, has something to lose. A ‘worst case’ happening, however, seemed highly unlikely in recent times: with two compelling race weekends at Zolder, Rast converted a 47-points’ deficit into a 19-points’ lead – the most important ‘Route 66’ towards the title defence, to say so. Rast is heading to Hockenheim with boosted self-confidence. In case he manages to defend his title, it would be his third DTM crown, drawing level with legend Klaus Ludwig. Only Bernd Schneider is still ahead with five title wins.
Turning the scales – the rising stars of the season are keen to shine once more
They are the latest ‘newbies’ on the DTM podium: Robert Kubica (POL, BMW) and Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT, Audi). Earlier in the 2020 season, Sheldon van der Linde (RSA, BMW) first entered the circle of the top 3 drivers and then went on to add his name to the winners’ list. They are the primary candidates to make the aforementioned mathematical and theoretical championship scenarios obsolete: Sheldon van der Linde is in contention for fourth place in the final championship standings and is keen to conclude the season as ‘best of the rest’. For Kubica and Habsburg, the aim is to confirm their upward trend of the 2020 DTM season after their recent strong achievements and podium results at Zolder. At the same time – typical for the DTM – there are also plenty of other candidates for surprises and remarkable achievements.
Race venue Hockenheim: a large strategic playing field for drivers and engineers
Two factors are providing the drivers and engineers with a huge strategic playing field in terms of possible combinations at Hockenheim. In the cooler temperatures, the Hankook control tyres will degrade less during the race, so that the mandatory pit stop could become a creative tool to make up ground in the race and to catch out the opposition by surprise. For instance with radical strategies that lead to so-called over- or undercuts, so either particularly late or early stops to avoid the dense traffic, depending on the position of the driver in the race.
Another aspect enabling strategic freedom is the characteristic of the Hockenheim race track itself. Basically, it allows for two different approaches in terms of set-up. Either you opt for high top speed by means of less downforce, or for higher cornering speed with considerably more aerodynamic downforce. Moreover, the plain asphalt surface and the flat kerbstones at the Hockenheimring allow to run the vehicles with little ground clearance. Experts expect a flat-out rate of around 74 percent. The concerted use of overtaking and catch-up aids DRS (drag reduction system) and PTP (push-to-pass) is estimated to provide an advantage of around seven tenths of a second per lap during the race.
Picture: Audi trio: Nico Müller (SUI), René Rast (GER), Robin Frijns (NED) © DTM